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Calls for free bets ban during Irish gambling industry overhaul

Ireland gambling industry overhaul

IRELAND is cleaning up its gambling industry, and lobbyist organisations have used the opportunity to call for a ban on free bets.

Following the announcement of an independent regulatory authority that will be set up in Ireland to revamp the gambling industry, a problem gambling organisation wants to put an end to free bets and other bonuses Irish betting sites.

Talking to local media, Problem Gambling Ireland’s Barry Grant said the industry needs to review its gambling advertising expectations.

“If you’re watching soccer, in particular, it’s non-stop, around social media, it’s non-stop,” he said.

“Certainly one of the areas within advertising and marketing that we would like to see the regulator focus on is free bets.

“If you compare it to alcohol and other potentially addictive over-18s products, we would never allow alcohol producers to hand out free drink vouchers, but we regularly allow the gambling industry to give out free bets.”

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The comments follow the government approving a plan to overhaul Ireland’s gambling industry, considered to be self-governing. The government has attempted to regulate the industry for years, introducing the Gambling Control Bill in July 2013. But the piece of legislation has remained dormant.

Currently, Irish gambling companies operate under the Gaming and Lotteries Acts 1956 to 2013, which ministers have labelled as “disjointed”.

The bill, which addresses licensing and regulation, has not advanced until last week when Ireland’s minister of state at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton, requested an update on the general scheme of the bill.

An independent regulatory authority will be set up under the scheme, which will have the responsibility to license and monitor gambling operators and investigate the legitimacy of Irish online casinos and betting sites.

The government will also have to update the piece of legislation to address advancements in the gambling industry over the past five years, including the provision of online gambling, creating a single legislative regime for all forms of gaming.

Licensed local and international gambling operators, located off and online, will also be required to pay a mandatory levy to contribute to an established social fund. If they refuse, the regulatory authority will revoke their license.

It’s not clear how much the levy will amount to, but it will be used to treat problem gamblers and go towards research and education of responsible gambling.

Our opinion – Focus needs to be on problem-gambling treatments

We are supportive of problem gambling measures, which target the minority who may not be able to have a casual punt. But Grant misses the mark when it comes to his argument since local pubs and clubs give out free drink vouchers in raffles, with meals and discount drinks during specific hours.

If the reasoning behind banning free bets, which will also take effect in Australia this year, is to protect a sub-group of people, namely problem gamblers, shouldn’t we be looking at more appropriate forms of treatment instead of blindfolding the minority?

The Irish government’s announcement to establish a social fund to contribute to the treatment of problem gamblers is a start.

Regulation and licensing are essential when it comes to the gambling industry and protecting consumers, and we admire the Irish government for looking into the bill.

The UK is probably the best example of where an independent regulatory body supports gambling operators while protecting consumers simultaneously.